Police Numbers (Edinburgh)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 February 2024.

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Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the most recent “Police Scotland Officer & Staff Numbers” statistics showing the number of police officers in Police Scotland’s Edinburgh division. (S6O-03078)

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

The latest statistics on police officer numbers were published earlier this week, showing that there were 48 more officers deployed in Edinburgh as of 31 December 2023 compared to the same point in 2022. Additionally, the city’s E division is able to access specialist regional and national expertise when that is required to meet demand. I welcome the chief constable’s commitment to restarting officer recruitment in March, following the positive budget settlement for policing in the draft 2024-25 budget. That means that the chief constable will have more officers available to deploy, in addition to the almost 1,480 officers who have been recruited since the beginning of 2022.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

Since the Scottish National Party Government decided to merge Scotland’s police forces into one, that action has had a devastating impact on the visible footprint of police officers in our communities. Despite the cabinet secretary’s response, in the Edinburgh police division alone, there has been a drop of 76 officers, which is a loss of more than one in 20 officers in just over a decade. It is no wonder that recorded violent crime in Edinburgh has increased by 10 per cent in the past year alone. Why has the SNP Government left our hard-working police officers to fend for themselves in the face of rising violent crime?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

As I am sure the member is aware, since this Government took office in 2007, Scotland is safer—recorded crime is at one of the historic lows since 1974—and there has been a decrease of 40 per cent in recorded crime. I remind the member that our police officers remain the best paid in the United Kingdom, and that we continue to have more hard-working police officers now compared with what we inherited in 2007.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

While the UK Government continues to slash Scotland’s public service funding, with the latest autumn statement imposing further damage after more than a decade of austerity, the Scottish Government has supported our vital emergency services and has increased pay for staff. Can the cabinet secretary provide detail on the funding that has been allocated in the recent draft budget and what it will mean for Police Scotland?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

If the UK Government is not cutting public services and the Scottish block grant, it is meddling with pension changes, which has a huge impact on the retention of police officers. Protecting front-line services and supporting those who deliver them is a key priority for the Scottish Government. That is why, despite the challenging financial circumstances, there is a very good settlement for the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland in the draft budget. We will invest £1.55 billion in policing in the next financial year, which is a significant increase of £75 million in resource and a 12.5 per cent increase in capital. As the budget progresses, I hope that we will have the Conservatives’ support, for the sake of policing in Scotland.

The Presiding Officer:

As ever, there is much interest in the questions. I would be grateful if we could pick up the pace.